Guest Post & Giveaway: Hazel Mitchell on One Word Pearl

By Hazel Mitchell

I was so excited when Charlesbridge’s imprint, Mackinac Island Press, approached me to illustrate One Word Pearl by Nicole Groeneweg, because it’s all about words!

Immediately, I started thinking how to use words in the images.

I had a ton of fun cutting out words from magazines and anything I could find (just like Pearl), doing collages, making up little stories for the backgrounds. I even got to write a ‘stream of consciousness’ for a couple of the images.

I wanted to give the surface of the printed book a textured, papery feel. To get the ‘grainy’ look I overlaid layers of paper that I’d scanned – rice paper, crumpled brown paper, handmade paper with flecks and specks. I used paper torn from a spiral notepad.

 I really wanted to give the reader lots of visual interest. And I had a great time doing it too!

The drawn elements of the book were by hand in pencil and watercolor and then scanned into Photoshop, coloured digitally with added textures and layers. Some of the pages had over 150 layers.

I’ve been using Photoshop since 1988 (when I was a graphic designer in the Royal Navy), and I’m hooked. I find it hard to imagine illustrating without it and my Wacom pad.

Pearl’s a departure from books I’ve illustrated in the last four years (which is when I got serious about chidren’s illustration – I’d worked in commercial design since leaving art college in England. It was only after I moved to America that I begin seriously pursuing my dream. I count myself lucky to work in this industry!)

One Word Pearl gave me chance to experiment with technique and be much freer. That’s something that I had been working on.

Years working in graphics meant I was extremely tight. Looking back at my fine art work from college I was so loose! Every time I did a looser piece in my portfolio, it’d get attention from art directors and editors. I figured that was the way to go.

Trying to find your style mystifies a lot of illustrators when they start out. For a while, you go through phases of trying to me like someone else, to follow a trend, it’s a necessary part of learning to be an artist.

For me, my voice came through when I’d forgotten all about it. When you don’t think about it anymore and you just draw. It’s an unconscious thing.

I have to say I can’t see me sticking to just one style. For one, I would be bored and I think it depends on the manuscript. There are always elements of your work that connect with each other. As long as the illustrations are right for the book, that’s what matters.

Of course, composition, subject, content, interacting with the manuscript, those are all conscious things. But if you are searching for your style, it will be there when you stop worrying about it.

And the only way to do that is Draw! Draw! Draw! (and have fun!)

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win illustrator-signed giclee print!

Enter to win…

Grand Prize: an illustrator-signed copy of One Word Pearl and one signed giclee print from the book (pictured above).

Runner-up Prize: an illustrator-signed copy of One Word Pearl.

Illustrator sponsored. Eligibility: international.

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14 thoughts on “Guest Post & Giveaway: Hazel Mitchell on One Word Pearl

  1. Love your illustrations! I collage a page for each of my characters in the MG novels I write. It helps me get to know them and makes them feel real to me. Enjoyed your post!

  2. What a great collage idea- as a children's poet- words collaged like this are great fun and wonderful to have an international competition. Love words of course and the creative ways they are used. Sorry the one thing I don't have is a twitter account. Very inspiring post.

    Lorraine Marwood

  3. What a great technique- as a poet I love word collage . What fun to illustrate a book in this way. I'd love to share this with my grandchildren.

  4. As a writer I wondered how many drafts each of your spreads takes, Hazel? I know how many drafts I go through and wondered if the process was similar for an illustrator.

  5. The cover is spectacular. I just love it. It's fun hearing about your process and how you thought through this. I only write so the illustration process is foreign to me. My debut picture book will come out Fall 2015 and I'm so excited about seeing the illustrations.

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